The ‘innovation platforms approach’ is an effective way of establishing systematic interactions among stakeholders in the agricultural sector by stimulating technical, institutional and organizational innovations in agricultural value chains. Researchers from the University of Bonn, Germany, ILRI and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), tested the effectiveness of a dairy innovation platform that is trying to improve farmers’ access to cattle feeds in Tanzania.
Scaling up transdisciplinary research so that a systems approach can be applied by more and more scientists could make a huge contribution to development in smallholder farming.
Over the past decade, ILRI research has provided insight into the impacts of food-borne diseases, challenged conventional thinking on food safety and developed a successful approach to participatory risk analysis for understanding and managing food safety in a more dynamic future.
ILRI’s support to smallholder dairy development has benefited the Kenyan economy. The benefits of policy change include improved safety of milk, increased profit margins for small-scale vendors, greater access to milk for poor consumers, and employment for many others in the sector, with knock-on benefits for the wider economy. Building on the Kenyan approach, an initiative to improve milk handling among traders in Assam in India resulted in a new governance institution, increased risk mitigation, improvements in milk quality, higher sales and increased customer satisfaction.
The forage collection maintained by ILRI, for example, contains germplasm from around 19,000 plant populations representing over 1,400 forage species, including grasses, legumes and fodder trees, many of which are under threat in the wild from land use changes and over-grazing. ILRI’s forage collection is providing scientists with the genetic material to develop climate-smart, high yielding and disease tolerant varieties that will have a key role in Africa’s farming future.
Opinion piece by Pamela Anderson and Josh Lozman published in the Impatient Optimists Blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: ‘Food Security and Nutrition and the Post-2015 Development Goals’, 24 Mar 2014.
Innovation platforms are widely used in agricultural research to connect different stakeholders to achieve common goals. This twelfth brief reflects on some of the challenges of measuring outcomes and impacts around innovation platforms.